Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mouchette and Tralfamadorian Existance

It's always nice to learn new things, obtain usable insights that will help you later in life. I'm talking beyond that which will further the progression of my own work. Cultural universals that supersede language barriers.

With the advent of the internet as a standard communication tool these insights often pass over us and are under appreciated. I wonder if this deters us from the nuances in daily life and leaves us to only notice overwhelming profundities.

In reading the socially interactive piece Mouchette I noticed a section that allowed for anonymous advice for pre-teen depression. Here I noted the following tidbit in a section entitled "What is the best way to kill yourself when you're under 13?". Gracie writes, "LETHAL INJECTION OF STARS AND BUTTERFLIES." Doesn't get more insightful than that.

All kidding aside I think this brings up an interesting point about the presentation of a work on the internet or really in any modern medium. Because of the access to technology and the ready ability to not only add to something but also manipulate it an artist is at the will of his or her audience. By allowing the audience to not only interact with the work but to also offer input into it is a risky move on the part of the artist. Where does the author censor his or her own creation when it has been defaced? Is that the point?

Mouchette, the interactive piece, is based (I believe) off the 1967 French film by same title.

Mouchette also means little fly, lending well to the section Lullaby for a dead fly, which I found to be the most interesting.

Here, Mouchette is deceased. Yet she is not because she is posting the mourners comments on the site. The mourners' comments stream about the page and proclaim Mouchette to not be dead because her creation (which I've found reference to being originally created by a Canadian man) is still alive and thriving.
Since Mouchette is an all together fictitious character she can never die in the literal sense because she also has never lived. But because of the interaction allowed in this medium she takes on a much more emotional presence to her audience than were she simply words on a page or an actress in a film.

The imagination of these website patrons not only allows them to be fans of Mouchette and post advice on her suicide site. They are also, through delusion or suspension of disbelief, allowed to mourn her in a more profound way than a conventional work of fiction.

They also do not mourn in a conventional way. Instead each offers philosophies of the their take on the digital afterlife. Mouchette, in the same way people often mention tangible loved ones, is "still with us." (Despite never really being with us to begin with.) Mouchette's website is still updated daily or so, people still contribute to it, still interact with her creation, with her. And even though she is dead in certain portions of the site it is irrelevant to her character as a whole. It's a lot like the Tralfamadorians of Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. While deceased at one moment they are alive in a great many others. There is no need for chronology.

So Mouchette, like any tangible art work, becomes timeless in a way. Still, like a tangible work of art, Mouchette will only exist as long as aesthetics allows.

Once Mouchette's website has become outdated will she parish?

Well, the website is already outdated but I have seen postings from patrons as recently as January 22nd 2009. So in this way Mouchette has already stood a small test of time. I suppose she will parish when her links are lost or when the server respirating her breaks down. She might also homogenize into culture like other hijacked and manipulated thoughts, ideas, and works of art. In some ways she has already done this. The website is based off a movie, based off a novel, based off an idea from an author, based off of certain experiences and teachings that led him to said idea.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hypertext and the Confessional Memoir

The early experimentation with hypertext in a literary form seems to have focused mainly in the genre of the confessional memoir.
The three examples read (Body, Six Sex Scenes, and These Waves of Girls) were also written in the mid to late 90s, which makes me wonder if it was the genre best suited for the hypertext format or if it were simply a popular genre to write in at the time. In researching further I was unable to find out the popularity of the confessional memoir in relation to the advent of the hypertext format. Anybody know?

Regardless, I do think that the format serves well for the genre. It allows memory to be something discovered for the reader. By which I mean the reader is able to make the same connection between things as the author via the medium of the link. Also, it gives the author the chance to connect more than one memory to another and more than one topic to the same memory.

For instance, in My Body, Jackson says, “Far better, maybe, if we had a happy void in the center of the face.” this line acts as a link that takes the reader from the musings on the nose to those of the eye. The connection of each body part in some way reminding of the other or in a way being similar is more easily accomplished via hypertext. In an interview with Bold Type Jackson stated, "My mind doesn't travel in a straight line, and neither do my stories. I like digression and interruption and the clash of styles and voices."

Jackson also discusses at one point in My Body the way that she would make this work if it were tangible. She says that she would make a wooden body and provide corresponding drawers for each section. I simply found this interesting because it is something actually done in the Bodies Exhibition currently touring museums around the U.S..

The downside of hypertext is there is a chance that a reader will simply not click on all the links. I found this especially frustrating in These Waves of Girls. The author has portions meant to be read in a linear form or that at least read as a narrative when followed using the "next" and "last" arrows. However, these scenes also provide other links to other portions of the story and disrupt the narrative. While I understand the author's notion of memory and thus a memoir not being viewed in a conventional format I did feel that a number of the stories contained within the text to be better told conventionally. Which is to say, I did not see them as interesting in a non-linear format. It was just unnecessary.

Where I found the hypertext working best was in Adrienne Eisen's, Six Sex Scenes. The story was easily read without the convention of narrative for one. Also I found that the jumping around lent well to the narrators style of thinking which is kind of paratactic in a sense.
I might be partial to this one because I found the character was easier to relate to or because I believe I read this story at some point in my undergraduate education. (You just don't forget a story like On My Fifteenth Birthday.) Regardless of these reasons I simply found Eisen to be more captivating than the other two readings, which I think is the most important part of reading text, be it in a digital or conventional format. Without a well written, captivating story to tell no amount of technical innovation is going to really help. Keep in mind this is not to say the other two stories were not interesting both in form and content. I simply found Scenes to work the best within the genre.
My body would be really cool, visually, were it an actual sculpted piece. And I think that These Waves of Girls would be better suited in a more orthodox form.